Archery At Its Best

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Archery At Its Best

Archery, or the art of shooting with a bow and arrow, has a history stretching back almost 12,000 years, with the oldest recorded bow being found in the Holmegård swamp in Denmark.

Bows and arrows were an integral part of the classical armies. The English longbow, made from traditional yew, played a major part in the Battle of Agincourt, but the invention of the musket in 1520 saw the rapid decline of the bow and arrow as a fighting element. In 1595 muskets were ordered to replace bows in the English army and the last battle involving English archers was in 1644, at Tipper Muir in Scotland.

But even though archery disappeared from the battlefield, bows and arrows remained popular for hunting and sport and enjoyed a revival in England during the eighteenth century, particularly among the upper classes.

The arrow has three main components, the shaft, the arrowhead and the fletching, or feathers. Traditionally the shaft was made from wood, but more modern materials, such as aluminium and glass fibre have enabled lighter, hollow-shaft arrows to be made. Nowadays competitive archers tend to favour carbon fibre or composite shafts.

The arrowhead was originally a sharpened tip to the shaft, but has been replaced by a separate head, usually of metal, attached to the shaft. The fletching is used to give the arrow directional stability and was traditionally made from bird feathers.

A modern bow requires protective equipment for the archer to avoid injury. A guard is usually placed on the inside of the arm holding the bow, to give protection from the string as it is released, while a finger guard is used on the hand used to draw and release the bowstring.

Apart from protective accessories, other aids are used in modern archery to improve performance. These can include release aids, to make sure the bowstring is released evenly and consistently and stabilisers, or weights, added to the bow to reduce shaking at the moment of bowstring release.

  The key to being a successful archer is consistency and it is important to ensure that you follow a standard shooting technique. Your body should be perpendicular to the target, with your legs slightly apart. Hold the bow in the hand opposite to your dominant eye and use the other hand to draw the bowstring.

To load, point the bow towards the ground and insert the notched, feathered end of the arrow in the string. Support the arrow with the index finger above the arrow shaft and the remaining fingers below the shaft. When ready to shoot, raise the bow to the shooting position, at the same time drawing the bowstring back. Aim at the target and then release the arrow by relaxing the fingers supporting the arrow.

Archery is a fascinating sport and if you are keen to find out more, why not contact Archery South Africa, previously known as the Council for Archery Sport, for more details.
 

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